Thousands of female North Korean refugees — some as young as nine years old — are being sold into China’s sex trade, according to a new report from a U.K. non-profit that detailed horrific accounts of rape and abuse.
The report from the Korea Future Initiative details how women who escape violence and oppression in North Korea are then trafficked into sexual slavery in China that generates at least $105-million in profits for criminal networks.
According to the report, an estimated 60 per cent of North Korean girls and women in China are trafficked into the sex trade. Of those, roughly 50 per cent are forced into prostitution, and 30 per cent are sold into forced marriage.
Fifteen per cent are trafficked into the growing industry of cybersex, where girls as young as nine are forced to perform graphic sex acts or are sexually assaulted in front of webcams, which are live-streamed to a paying global audience.
“North Korean women and girls are passed through the hands of traffickers, brokers, and criminal organisations before being pulled into China’s sex trade, where they are exploited and used by men until their bodies are depleted,” said Yoon Hee-soon, the report’s author, in a statement.
While there is no official data available on the number of North Koreans in China, the report says up to 200,000 North Koreans have fled into mainland China and more than two-thirds are estimated to be women.
Researchers from the non-profit interviewed 45 women in China and South Korea over two years and offered a window into the abuse suffered at the hands of traffickers or raped by paying clients.
“The man … drove me to his apartment. It was shocking to see [North Korean] girls there. I do not know how old they were. I saw two girls who had not yet developed breasts,” said a woman identified as Ms Choi. “I was taken to a room that had a bed in front of a table with a computer and a webcam. Four men came [and] gang-raped me.”
The report said that women are often trapped by China’s policy of detaining and repatriating North Koreans, which places them at high risk of exploitation.
In some cases, women are even sold by police officers after being arrested, the report said, while others are conned by traffickers offering travel to countries where they can claim asylum.
Researchers urged countries around the world to help North Koreans in China escape and said embassies should accept asylum seekers as refugees.
“Condemnation is insufficient,” Hee-soon said. “Only tangible acts can dismantle China’s sex trade, confront a North Korean regime that abhors women, and rescue sex slaves scattered across brothels, remote townships, and cybersex dens in mainland China.”